31 October 2013

Plant Seeds From Hummel Park Going to China

By Dr. David M. Sutherland, professor emeritus, University of Nebraska at Omaha

Dr. Mary Barkworth, a plant systematist at Utah State University, recently put out a call in a herbarium listserve for mature grains of the grass Oryzopsis racemosa, recently moved by some American agrostologists into the genus Patis. She was requesting this material, not for her own research, but for a Dr. Chen, in China, who is working on the molecular systematics of this and related genera. I have been retired for a few years, but still keep an interest in grasses, even giving an occasional guest lecture to the UNO flora class, and I recalled from long-ago flora field trips, that there were several large colonies of this uncommon grass on the south slope of the north ridge at Hummel Park, in the Ponca Hills region of northern Omaha. On an afternoon jaunt with Jim Ducey in mid-October, we looked to see whether the grass was still there and found it in abundance, but the plants were very mature, and nearly all the grains of this season had dropped. After inspecting a fairly large number of inflorescences we discovered that a very few bracts were still holding the large black grains, and, in a period of about a half-hour, we collected exactly 15 grains, the minimum number needed by the Chinese scientist. Later that afternoon, they were packed them up in a small plastic bag in a padded envelope and sent to Dr. Barkworth, who will know the proper procedure for mailing them safely to China.